USJAN Accomplishments

Influencing the 2016 Narrative

USJAN and our partner organizations engaged both parties on the urgent need to safely reduce the prison population and help those leaving our justice system successfully rejoin their communities. As a result, smart justice reform policies are featured in both the Democratic and Republican party platforms, an unprecedented point of agreement across party lines.

Daily Signal – In Cleveland, GOP Governors Up Commitments to Criminal Justice Reform

“The U.S. Justice Action Network, which hosted the event in Cleveland, targeted 12 states for criminal justice reform. In 11 of those states, legislatures passed reform bills.”

“Indeed, the party’s platform called for the creation of a task force to “purge the code” of crimes to tackle overcriminalization. The document also advocates for modifications to mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent offenders; those who struggle with addiction and those with mental health issues. “It’s not a Republican or a Democrat issue. It’s an American issue we should all be concerned about,” Fallin said.”

The Daily Caller – Three Red States Inspire Our Country on Justice Reform

Huffington Post – The Criminal Justice System Was A Huge Focus At The DNC. But It Can’t Stop There.

MSNBC – Holly Harris Highlights Progress Made on Justice Reform

“It’s interesting candidates on both sides of the aisle are talking about criminal justice reform policies to safely reduce the prison population and cost to taxpayers and break down barriers for the formerly incarcerated so they can find jobs, support their families and lead crime free lives. It’s really an issue that transcends politics.”

The Hill – Poll: Battleground Voters Back Criminal Justice Reform

“Over 60 percent of voters in six key battleground states say federal prisons house too many non-violent offenders, a new poll from the U.S. Justice Action Network finds.”

“Nearly 70 percent in Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin said the federal government is spending too much tax money keeping non-violent offenders behind bars and agreed the criminal justice system should focus on rehabilitation.”

“Leaders of the U.S. Justice Action Network said on Monday that they would be taking a bipartisan push for criminal justice changes in 2016 to Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maryland — states they see as ripe for legislative proposals such as one allowing offenders to seal their criminal records after steering clear of trouble for a time.”

The New York Times – Focus of Criminal Justice Efforts Shifts to States

“Leaders of the U.S. Justice Action Network said on Monday that they would be taking a bipartisan push for criminal justice changes in 2016 to Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maryland — states they see as ripe for legislative proposals such as one allowing offenders to seal their criminal records after steering clear of trouble for a time.”

Spotlight on State Legislative Victories

It’s been “A Year of Achievement,” for our left-right partnership, particularly at the state level. As noted in The New York Times, we expanded our work to twelve priority states at the beginning of 2016 to include Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.

By forging key relationships with governors, legislative leadership, and champions on both sides of the aisle, including law enforcement, business, civil rights, and faith-based groups across the country, we have successfully passed almost all of our targeted legislation since we began our efforts.

You can read our full report highlighting justice reforms moving across the country here.

USJANAccomplishments

Below is a list of state-level successes over the past year. Click on the state’s name for more information on our work or click here for the full list of state victories:

  • Arizona
    • Passed new laws to smooth prisoners’ transitions back to society.
  • Illinois
    • Reduced criminal penalties for marijuana, focusing the state’s justice system on serious offenders instead of those who commit minor drug offenses.
  • Iowa
    • Sealed records for juveniles and curbed mandatory minimums.
  • Kentucky
    • Created a pathway for low-level offenders to expunge their criminal records.
    • Partnered with Gov. Matt Bevin to introduce new Criminal Justice Reform Council.
  • Louisiana
    • Expanded the state’s reentry court program and expanded existing expungement practices.
  • Maryland
    • Reformed civil asset forfeiture laws.
    • Provided more funding for drug treatment services and reformed mandatory minimum sentences.
  • Michigan
    • Worked with law enforcement groups to reform civil asset forfeiture laws.
  • Minnesota
    • Passed the most significant reforms to drug laws in 30 years.
  • Pennsylvania
    • Reduced barriers to employment for those with criminal records.
  • Ohio
    • Passed “ban the box” legislation that improved employment opportunities for individuals leaving incarceration.
  • Oklahoma
    • Expanded employment opportunities for individuals with criminal records.
    • Reformed sentencing laws by reducing mandatory minimums for low-level drug offenses and increasing access to drug courts.

Impactful Lobbying and Advocacy at the Federal Level

SENATE BILL: SENTENCING REFORM AND CORRECTIONS ACT OF 2015

USJAN worked with a bipartisan group of senators to develop the Senate legislation, which:

  • Reforms mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses;
  • Gives judges discretion on sentencing;
  • Expands programs to reduce recidivism;
  • Applies reforms retroactively to those already in prison.

Status: The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill on Oct. 22, 2015. Following a targeted lobbying campaign by USJAN and its partners that included collaboration with law enforcement and veterans’ advocates, eight more Senate sponsors signed on, bringing the total number of bipartisan sponsors to 36. Votes are expected on the full Senate floor.

HOUSE BILLS: SENTENCING REFORM ACT AND SECOND CHANCE REAUTHORIZATION ACT

USJAN worked with bipartisan lawmakers in the House to introduce the sentencing legislation that would reform mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses and give judges discretion on sentencing.

Our organization urged the House Judiciary Committee to vote on measures included in the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015, which help individuals successfully return to society by expanding job training and education programs.

Status: The House Judiciary Committee passed these bills in November 2015 and January 2016. House Speaker Paul Ryan has committed to bringing this issue to the floor of the House this year.

Criminal Justice Reform Polling in 15 Key States

Between November 2015 and February 2016, USJAN surveyed likely voters on criminal justice reform issues in 15 states: Colorado, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Missouri, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The expansive polling, targeted at battleground and bellwether states, was conducted by well-regarded conservative polling firms Public Opinion Strategies, Red Oak Strategic, and The Tarrance Group, and produced compelling results showing overwhelming support for criminal justice reform across the ideological spectrum. As a result, we recruited new and more vocal champions for our issues and established criminal justice reform as a hot topic at legislatures across the country.
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Groundbreaking Moments

Changing Laws, Changing Lives: At the Republican National Convention in July 2016, the U.S. Justice Action Network hosted a discussion on criminal justice reform with Governors Nathan Deal of Georgia, Matt Bevin of Kentucky and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma. These governors have each led efforts to pass legislation (with bipartisan support) aimed at reducing their costly prison populations and breaking down barriers so individuals leaving prison can get back to work, support their families, and lead productive, redeemed lives.

We also debuted our Changing Laws, Changing Lives video featuring these governors that explores the achievements and challenges of their state justice systems.

Coffee@WaPo: Out of Jail, Into Society: On Feb. 10, 2016, the U.S. Justice Action Network sponsored a reentry-focused event at the brand-new headquarters of The Washington Post. The conversation, moderated by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sari Horwitz, included White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and other well-known voices in the criminal justice reform movement.

In addition to a standing-room only attendance of approximately 400 people, roughly 10,000 people tuned in online. The event’s hashtag, #postreentry, trended nationally on Twitter for hours, higher than the same day New Hampshire primary.